neo sumerian

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Extremely Rare Neo-Sumerian Palace Messenger Tablet from Iri-Sagrig, Dated 2027 BC

A clay pillow-shaped messenger tablet from an important palace archive of the Sumerian city Iri-Saĝrig, dated to 2027 BC, with cuneiform text on both sides: “1 roasted mutton, 5 sila soup Ur-šu-suen, chancellor’s assistant when he came for the ’secretary’ of Nana’s field; 3 sila soup, 2 fish Laqipum, cup bearer, royal messenger when he went for royal offerings; 1 sila soup, 1 fish Suškin, royal messenger when he came from Der to the king’s place; 1 sila soup, 1 fish Kuganum, royal messenger; /REVERSE/ 1 sila soup, 1 fish Ilianum, royal messenger when they went to Der; 1 sila soup, 1 fish Namhani, royal messenger; 1 sila soup, 1 fish Lu-šulgira, royal messenger when they came to the governor’s place; 2 sila soup, 2 fishŠugatum, royal messenger when he came to capture fugitive soldier-workers, servants of Ninhursag; 1 sila soup, 1 fish Pululu, eguary when he went for the sikum-mules; A disbursement for the month Nigenlila, 19th day.”

This text dates to the second year of King Ibbi-Sin, the last king of the Ur III. The text is particularly rare because almost all of the named messengers are followed by a description their mission: “Suškin, royal messenger when he came from Der to the king’s place.” The tablet records rations of food and drink distributed by the government to royal messengers. According to Prof. David Owen the Iri-Saĝrig archive is probably the archive of the governor whose office was in the local palace. The king and other members of the royal family occasionally traveled to Iri-Saĝrig, perhaps on their way to or from Nippur or other towns. No town in Sumer was visited more often by the king than Iri-Saĝrig. This may explain the presence of so many royal functionaries associated with the town.

Sumerian clay tablet case with cuneiform inscription and multiple seal impressions. The tablet case dates back to Neo-Sumerian 3rd Dynasty of Ur (2094-2047 BCE). The inscription reads: “Shulgi, mighty man, king of Ur, king of the four quarters, En-dingir-mu, the rider, is your servant.” Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, MA.   

Photo by Babylon Chronicle

Neo-Sumerian Messenger Tablet, 2028 BC

A clay pillow-shaped messenger tablet from an important palace archive of the Sumerian city Iri-Saĝrig, dated to 2028 BC, with cuneiform text on both sides: “120 quarts of barleyfor Namhani, a royal messenger; 120 quarts for Dadatabum; 120 quarts for Ur-diĝira; 120 quarts for Puzur-Sin; 120 quarts for Iti-Sin; 120 quarts for Zuzaya; 120 quarts for Utul-Mama; 120 quarts for Ur-Šulpa’e; 120 quarts for Nabi-Sin; 120 quarts for Ahu-țab; 120 quarts for Ahu-baqar; 120 quarts for Igi-anakezu; 120 quarts for Lu-gula; Total: 13 royal messengers, 120 quarts for each; their barley 1,560 quarts; barley salary of royal messengers when they were stationed to surveythe farmers’ field; (the rations) were receivedIlum-asu, the scribe, was responsible; withdrawal in the month of kir11-si-ak; Year when Ibbi-Sin (became) king.”

This text dates to the first year of King Ibbi-Sin, the last king of the Ur III. The text is important because it records huge quantities of barley (total 1560 quarts is equal to 1384 l) distributed by the government to royal messengers. The barley was meant to be rations or salaries in return for their service. According to prof. David Owen the Iri-Saĝrig archive is probably the archive of governor whose office was in the local palace. The king and other members of the royal family occasionally traveled to Iri-Saĝrig, perhaps on their way to or from Nippur or other towns. No town in Sumer was visited more often by the king than Iri-Saĝrig. This may explain the presence of so many royal functionaries associated with the town.

Bilingual Sumerian Proverbs, Babylonia c. 2000-1700 BC

Written in Neo Sumerian and Old Babylonian cuneiform on clay, containing 42 proverbs, a folk tale and a fable. This is the only known major bilingual proverb tablet of Old Babylonian origin.

Some of the proverbs say:

-Strength does not compare to the possession of intelligence.

- My strength is my god, but it is finished by myself.

- A swift one caught a gazelle, but a strong man carried it away.

- The small pig roots, “I will not eat it for pleasure” he said.

The folk tale is about a man getting increasingly old, his declining physical abilities, and the effect of a young girl on him. It is the oldest known example of a theme well attested in later world literature. The best known examples are 1 Kings 1:1 ff. and 2:17 ff., Eccl. 12: 1-7, and the Merchant’s Tale in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

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Neo-Assyrian Apotropaic Head of Humbaba, C. 900 BC

This hematite head is carved with the grimacing and grotesque face of the Sumerian demon Humbaba. Heads like these were used as amulets since they were believed to ward off evil. In the Gilgamesh myth, Humbaba was the doorkeeper of the Cedar Forest where the gods lived. He was raised by Utu, the Sun god and was regarded as a very dangerous and fearsome monster. In the myth, Gilgamesh decapitates Humbaba and puts his head in a sack.

The iconography of the apotropaic severed head of Humbaba is well documented from the First Babylonian Dynasty, continuing into Neo-Assyrian art and dying away during the Achaemenid rule. The severed head of the monstrous Humbaba found a Greek parallel in the myth of Perseus and the similarly employed head of Medusa, which Perseus placed in his leather sack.